3 ResLife Pro Quick Tips for Making Your Presentation Slides More Accessible

Roompact’s “Quick Tips” series highlights ideas and suggestions you can put into your practice as either a professional staff or student staff member working in residence life and education. Click to read more from the series.

During staff training, conferences, and at other points of the year, you may be called upon to develop presentation slides and present on various topics. Making sure your presentation is accessible to your audience is a key concern. Universal design benefits everyone, not just folks who have unique needs. The following are three quick tips to help you reach the broadest audience possible.

1. Choose easy to read fonts and colors.

Perhaps the single most important thing when designing with accessibility in mind is to make conscious choices about fonts and colors. Sometimes pre-made templates will help with these choices, but even they are not always created with universal design principles in mind.

When designing your presentation, pick simple easy-to-read fonts. This can include standard serif (i.e. Times New Roman) and san serif (i.e. Helvetica) fonts. Generally speaking, san serif fonts (those without the dingleberries hanging off the ends of letters) are consistently used for headlines and serif fonts are used for large blocks of reading text. Avoid strange artistic fonts or use them sparingly for emphasis. Above all, make sure your fonts are as large as possible. Font size is perhaps most important when designing with accessibility in mind. Larger = Better.

When it comes to colors, get familiar with the color wheel. Choose colors that are in high contrast that make text more readable. Avoid colors that folks with color-blindness may struggle with (ex. red, green, orange).

2. Use images, but also include alternate text.

Using images in a presentation can be helpful for explaining difficult concepts or for engaging visual learners. Having text accompany that, however, can also help increase your accessibility. If you do use a visual, include a caption, or, make sure that your image is accompanied by text that helps explain what is going on with the visual. Another option is to make sure you explain your visuals in detail when giving the presentation.

When providing slide handouts to attendees, make sure you define “alt-text” for all of your images. Alt-text provides “alternative text” for images to devices like screen readers. It’s always a best practice to provide your slides in multiple formats to attendees to utilize as they need.

3. Utilize auto-generated closed captioning.

Many of the more modern presentation platforms include computer-generated closed captioning as an option. Both PowerPoint and Google Slides have these capabilities. Just turn them on, and speak!

Video-conferencing software also has some captioning abilities, although not always automated. For example, in Zoom, there is the ability to engage a third-party captioner to add captions in real time. If you record the presentation to the cloud, downloads will include an audio transcript of the recording.

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